About me and Xtras, Inc.

Logo for Xtras.Net
Logo for VBxtras
Logo for Xtras, Inc.

A little history about me. In March 1994 I launched Xtras, Inc. as VBxtras, Inc. VBxtras was a catalog/mail-order reseller of 3rd party components and tools for developers using Visual Basic versions 3.0 through 6.0. I later changed our brand’s name to "Xtras.Net" as an Internet reseller of 3rd party components and tools for .NET developers, especially VB.NET and C#. During the time I ran Xtras it was recognized in 1999 as #123 on the Inc 500 which is Inc. Magazine’s annual list of the 500 fastest-growing private companies in the USA. That is a recognition for which I am still very proud.

NOTE: I wrote this blog post because I want a URL I can reference in the future whenever I want to mention Xtras and provide some background about it but without constantly repeating myself! I may also update this post from time to time if I realize I need to add and/or clarify something about what I wrote.

Conventional Wisdom, Assumptions, and Pot Roast

Pot Roast

Conventional wisdom is filled with assumptions. One of the things that makes conventional wisdom right most of the time is that those assumptions are usually valid. But sometimes they are not. One of my favorite little anecdotes that illustrates this is the tale of the pot roast:

A newly-wed husband noticed that every time his wife cooked a pot roast she would first cut an inch off either end before putting it in the oven. When he asked why, she said “Because that’s how you are supposed to cook pot roast.” Unsatisfied with her answer he pushed until she admitted that she learned it from her mother.

Waiting until a visit with his wife’s mother, the husband asked “Your daughter tells me you taught her to cook pot roast by first cutting an inch off each end?” to which the mother replied “Well of course, that’s how pot roast is cooked.” But the husband was not to be deterred, and after pressing his mother-in-law on the subject she finally admitted that she’d learned if from *her* mother.

This meant the husband had to ask the wife’s grandmother. When he finally got his chance he asked: “Your granddaughter’s mother told me you taught her to cut an inch off each end of a pot roast before cooking. She swore it was a requirement, but I’m dying to know why? Is there any sane reason to throw away two inches of perfectly good meat in order to cook a pot roast?!?”

Laughing, the grandmother said “Oh, heaven’s no! You see in those days we were very poor and didn’t own much cookware. I cut the ends off the pot roast so it would fit in my only pan!”

And so ends the story…

To me the moral here is that whenever someone starts quoting dogma you really should try and explore its origins. You may find that those firmly-held beliefs are based on mostly unconscious and invalid assumptions.

But Microsoft Can’t Scale!

One of the more interesting conversations I had during my tenure while President and CEO at Xtras, Inc. was in October 1997 when Network+Interop came to Atlanta for it’s annual visit. One of the Microsoft Windows NT Server Product Managers Luis Bonifaz decided stopped by my office for a visit and gave me an education of how Microsoft positions its competitors; I’ll never forget it.

Anyway, for those of you who remember those early formibable days when Windows NT Server first became a serious operating system, around v4.0, it was a fun time. In those days, the major systems players were feeling (rightfully) threatened and so they came out with continuous anti-NT campaigns with the simple message of:

Windows NT Server Can’t Scale!

Legend: Microsoft in Blue vs. Oracle and Sun in Yellow

Many vendors jumped on the "Let’s bash NT" bandwagon, but probably the loudest two were Scott McNeely of Sun Microsystems and Larry Ellison of Oracle Corporation. Being a Microsoft kool-aid drinker at the time (Xtras was running a reseller focused on Microsoft systems and developer tools after all) I was of course ready to do rhetorical battle with ol’ Scott and Larry. But what Luis told me was truly educational and amazing; talk about an on-the-job MBA in marketing!

Windows NT Server Market share in the early days vs. Bigger SystemsWindows NT Server Market share as NT starts to gain momentum vs. Bigger Systems

Luiz told me that, unlike most companies that focus on attempting to position their company in their prospect’s eyes, Microsoft was excellent at positioning their competitors, and further that Microsoft trained all their marketing people to think this way. Luis then went on to say that the anti-NT crowd had been trying to taint NT with the "can’t scale" brush for quite some time as he started drawing a triangle on my whiteboard to illustrate. He said that the Microsoft strategy was this:

"We’ll accept that. We’ll accept that we can’t scale up to operate the largest systems on the planet. Okay, but we’ll counter with the fact that you can’t scale down and we can, and that market is much, much larger!"

Windows NT Server Market share after NT gains significant momentum vs. Bigger SystemsWindows NT Server Market at market maturity vs. Bigger Systems

Using his triangle he showed the marketshare they attempted to guard (in yellow), and the marketshare they didn’t even attempt to take from Microsoft (in blue.) Luis continued:

"Then we’ll just continue working it," "We’ll continue improving the operating system and we’ll continue riding Moore’s Law. Eventually we’ll add the features that are needed to scale, by those who demand the bigger systems, and eventually the hardware we run on will be able to match all but the most demanding applications in the world. And then we will be able to scale; from the bottom all the way to (almost) the top. And the absolute top won’t really matter. At that point, what do you think will become of the "NT Can’t Scale" crowd? Like Zack Mayo (Richard Gere) in "An Officer and a Gentleman" they will have "nowhere else to go."

Fascinating. Anyway, it was fascinating to me back in 1997. And here we are almost ten year’s later; have Luis’ projections proven accurate? I’d say he was pretty close to correct.

P.S. What is all the more ironic about this story is how Microsoft doth protest too much these days about open-source software and Web 2.0 companies when they make pronouncements about not being able to scale and/or they are not being good enough for prime time. If history is any indication, Microsoft had better watch their back or people may soon be saying: The King is dead. Long live the King. :-)

Starting a New Chapter in Life…

Those of you who follow my blog are aware it has been a long time since I’ve last posted. Some of you already know what has been going on in my life, but most of you don’t. For those of you who do not as well as the rest of you it’s time for me to fill you in. 

But let me start with some background. Back in 1994 I founded Xtras, Inc. (then as VBxtras, Inc.) and I proceeded to grow it like mad. Then in 1999 Inc. Magazine honored us with their award for fast growth, placing us as #123 out of 500 on their Inc 500 list. It was a wild ride and I loved almost every minute of it!

Probably the best part were the people who honored me by working for Xtras during that period. I’m going to name a just few of them; the ones who contributed something so critical that Xtras would possibly have never succeeded had each of them not been involved (I’ve linked to their website or blog if I was able to find one):

Without each and every one of them, Xtras would never have reached the levels of success that it did. They helped me fulfill a dream; I thank them so muchl.  But there were also many other fabulous people who worked for Xtras from 1994 on, and I value every last one of them too. So if you dear reader are any one of them, please accept my thanks and forgive me for not mentioning you personally; you were very much appreciated.

In addition, there are also many fabulous vendors/catalog advertisers that Xtras dealt with during the VB3/4/6 heyday (1994..1998) when there was so much energy surrounding the Visual Basic industry. There was an almost all-for-one-and-one-for-all kind of feeling in the industry during those early days, which unfortunately does not exist in the Microsoft add-on vendor community now. To find something similar, sadly you have to go to the Web 2.0/Ruby on Rails crowd to get the same vibe.

Back then it was the people that made it so great, back before everyone started guarding their vested interests, back when it was Sheridan Software and Crystal Reports, not Infragistics and Business Objects, for example. Back when we were all about building an industry together. So I’m going to name the names of the people I remember, but there’s a good chance I’ll screw up and forget somebody because there were so many more people involved back then. So here goes, with links to their current blog if I could find one, including their company at the time (and the company it became if applicable), with links to whatever companies still exists. In no particular order, of course.  And anyone that’s forgotten, I apologize in advance:

Anyway, about the same time Xtras’ growth spurt peaked (around 1998/99; Xtras having been underfunded, I might add), the dotcoms boomed and, as I’m sure everyone remembers, VCs threw far too much money at companies without business models, none of them having being Xtras. This led to Xtras’ stasis; our inability to grow Xtras’ business and for the next six, we just operated pretty much doing the same thing over and over, day in and day out. Of course I wanted us to try new things, but we someone never managed to have the resources, and/or I could never manage to rally the troups.

So in May 2006, I left Xtras. I left to decompress and to clear my head. After a little over twelve (12) years of running Xtras I made a deal with one of my shareholders to buy my stake in the business and now Bill Kaylor has taken my place as president of Xtras. I wish them luck, but at this point I have no involvement and absolutely no financial interest left in Xtras. Of those twelve years, the first five (5) were some of the best years of my life, and last seven (7) were some of the worst. Be that as it may, plenty of fodder for future "lessons learned" blog posts. Although I have been working a little since May, I’ve mostly been catching up on things I neglected for so long, including renewing old friendships and cultivating new ones.

But now that I’ve had a short breather, I’m ready to leverage both my 19 years of business and marketing experience and my 21 years of technical/developer experience to pursue exciting new ideas and to once again work with the bright, enthusiastic and highly motivated people that make work so much fun. But you might ask why leaving Xtras will allow me that? 

The plain fact is a reseller like Xtras has a high number of customer transactions, is capital intensive, runs on low margins, and is held in pretty low esteme within the industry. In the early days we published a printed catalog which was the guide for the industry, but the Internet and Google replaced the need for that, so we devolving into being "just a reseller." After many years of metaphorically banging my head against the wall I realized it was virtual impossible for me to devote the time, find the funding, and/or gain interest from the people needed to form the loosely-coupled business relationships.that work so well to pursue the incredible Web 2.0 opportunities that are presenting themselves today. So it was better for me to just leave Xtras in other’s hands and start anew.

In what areas do I want to focus? I want to improve the world! I want to make things and life better, faster, cheaper, easier! Heck, if I could devote my life to world peace with 100% certainty, I would do that!  I have several projects in mind, some are for profit and some I have absolutely no profit motive whatsoever. For the latter I want to be a catalyst just to see them happen as I believe my doing so will improve some aspect of an industry or of life in general, depending on the project. And for almost all of these projects I want to work collaboratively with partners, anywhere from a loose open-source collaboration to jointly-owned companies.  And I will be able to be far more open and share my ideas on my blog unlike the past five-plus (5+) years as I won’t have the constraints on me that I was under while president, CEO, and fiduciary of Xtras.

So I am idealistic, but I am also pragmatic. This time I want to make sure my ventures are cumulatively far more profitable than Xtras was during my tenure. I’m not twelve years more experienced, and hopefully twelve years wiser. I want to accomplish my idealistic goals, not just dream about them. But I’ve learned the world does follow "The Golden Rule," just not the one they taught about in Sunday school. I’ve learned it is far better to be the one holding the gold otherwise you get stuck following someone else’s rules. :-)

For those of you who are interested, stay tuned to my RSS feed. I’ll be posting more about my upcoming adventures shortly.

Announcing my Latest Project! (Well almost…I need some help first)

I’m a categorization junkie. I have always been that way. If I’m interested in something I go out and research ad-nauseum, and then create exhaustive categorized and cross-referenced lists. I think that’s why I like databases and XML and data-driven websites. There’s something fundamentally satisfying about having data in a format that it can be easily sliced and diced, especially when you can be confident the list is incomplete.

Though I have frequently created lists of things and categorized them, with the exception of my business Xtras.Net where we list and categorize 3rd party components and tools for .NET, all of those lists are made at a point in time after which their accuracy fades.

Several years ago I wanted to purchase a loft condo and after several web searches I learned two things about real estate and the web. First agents for the most part don’t get the web, and/or second it is the goal of those in the real estate business to control access to information; too much money is at stake. All I wanted was a comprehesive list of loft condos in Atlanta so I could do my own research before going to see an agent, but such a list was nowhere to be found.

I spent an entire weekend researching the web and came up with a list that I later thought "What the heck, why not put on the web?" You can find that list here: Atlanta Loft Condos. It is now hopelessly out of date, and I keep thinking one day I’ll spend a weekend and update it, but that weekend will probably never come.

Anyway, one of the things that I’d love to have is a good comprehensive list of of what I call ".NET Influencers." That list would include all the activities in which they’ve been involved such as conferences, books, magazine articles, user groups, and so on. Why do I want this? Well, honestly, it just seems like it would be really beneficial to a lot of people, myself included.

For example, a company was were working on a Web Services project where security was extremely important. The project needed to integrate with SQL Server and ASP.NET. They want to develop inhouse, but don’t have time (or realize it would be foolish) for their staff to learn best practices on their own. They could send their staff to training classes, but as a former trainer I know training classes can be a blunt instrument when you need surgical precision. (Trainers don’t get all mad at me; training classes are great when someone needs to learn a broad base but not typically when they have highly specialize learning requirements.)

What if instead they could find someone who specialized in Web Services security, had experience with SQL Server and ASP.NET, who proved their expertise by writing books or magazine articles on the subject, and had their expertise acknowledged by giving sessions at conferences? They could hire that person for a 2-3 day crash-training/consulting project to teach their team best practices specifically for our project. They could pay that person a premium hourly rate, and it would likely be the best consulting money they had ever spent (I know this to be true; around 1997/98 we needed to learn SQL Server so we hired Mike Hotek for a two day consulting job and paid a handsome daily rate. It was definitely the best consulting money we ever spent.)

So who would benefit in the prior scenario? The client company would because they’d get their specific project addressed yet the cost of the consulting plus development would likely be much less than if they learning it on our own or even outsourced it. The expert consultant would also benefit because he would be paid handsomely for his time on a close-ended project without the need to be concern about a non-paying call-back.

In another scenario, imagine a conference promoter is sceduling a .NET-related conference and wants speakers for the hot topics dujour. Rather than just going with the same old people they already know and asking them to whip up something, they could find world-class experts. That would make the conference content tremendous. Who would benefit? Clearly the conference promoter, the newly discovered experts, and most of all, the conference attendees.

I could go on with similar scenarious, but I think you get the picture. I’ve wanted to, for quite a while actually, put together an XML Schema that would allow .NET Influencers to document their "influencial activities." I’ve worked on it on and off for months, but each time I’ve run into road blocks because I’ve not actually used XML enough to intuitively know how to best design a schemas. I’ve spoken with many XML "experts" and several said they were interested in helping, but nothing ever came of it (in one case, I never got around to emailing back…my bad!)

The XML Schema is perfect for this, I believe. Such an XML Schema would allow someone to create and publish what I’ll call an "Influencer Resume" containing a list of all their .NET-related activities (i.e. it should contain everything that would qualify them as an expert in some area of .NET, but not contain that they worked at MacDonalds until they were 18.) Once lots of .NET Influencers created and published their Influencer Resumes, it would give .NET-related websites all over the Internet something else to aggregate making the information searchable and sortable in a variety of ways. Practically everyone would benefit, don’t you think?

Over the holiday weekend I have finally it figured out. How do design the schema that is. I’ve prepared a proof-of-concept, and it is very close to fruition. It could be released to the world within days.

But first, I need some help. I need about ten (10) .NET Influencers to spend about an hour to create a subset (or complete version if possible) of their Influencer Resume and then review what I’ve done in context. A few hours work for you, no more, and when done you’ll have that which you’ve put off for years, that which you need to market yourself; the list of articles your written, conferences sessions you’ve delivered, other things related to .NET you’ve done.

Can you help me out, please? If you don’t think you are one to help with the above but you do have a blog, you can help by blogging a short blog about my need for this help? Or if you know someone who would be a great candidate, email him a link to this post, please. The sooner I can get past proof-of-concept, the sooner this think will see light of day and we’ll all benefit!

Where do you buy your .NET Components and other Programming Tools?

Disclaimer: I run a company (Xtras.Net) that sells .NET components and other programming tools so this topic significantly affects my own livelihood as well as that of my company.

Over the past 10 years, since we launched our first printed VBxtras catalog, the state of Windows-based programming has changed.  In those days most Windows programmers wrote smaller departmental apps using VB3.  Today, Windows-based programming as is often server programming as not, and it is usually mission critical for larger enterprises using .NET. 

I think Windows programmers have also changed. Programmers used to have an almost naive can-do evangelistic attitude but didn’t often think about the maintenance of their app a decade later.  Today programming is business, and business brings all seriousness with it.  Yes I am painting with a broad brush, but this isn’t the point of the essay so I hope you can let that go.

With the change I believe programmers have come to view components and tools differently too.  Previously they were "cool toys"; things they could use to build even cooler apps.  Today components and tools are about saving man hours and reducing time-to-market.  Yesterday’s components and tools cost $50-$500, today’s cost $200-$2000 or more.  Again, a broad brush I know.

With this change has come a change in sourcing behavior too.  Used to be the programmer called up a cataloguer like VBxtras that had all the components and tools to help him select, he used his credit card to order, and had the product shipped to arrive within a day or two.

Today, it seems .NET developers do one of two things.  Either they start by Googling for something like ".NET SMTP Component", download the demo of the first one they find, and if it meets minimum requirements, they buy it direct from the vendor at full price.  The other approach is they do serious research into several competing products like PDF engines or what one of our main vendors calls a "presentation layer toolset" by speaking to each of the vendors for those products, and then they either buy directly from the vendor or simply pass on to purchasing.  "Purchasing" then simply goes with their corporate reseller such as Software Spectrum and doesn’t or even won’t consider going to a specialist in .NET Components and Tools.

So it seems to me sourcing of .NET components and other tools comes down to the following options:

  1. Buy direct from the vendor at full price
  2. Buy from a corporate reseller like Software Spectrum at whatever price
  3. Buy from specialty reseller like Xtras.Net at a discount price

In corporations saving a few dollars doesn’t seem important, so the upshot I have seen is fewer .NET components and tools and being purchased from specialty resellers like Xtras.Net, even if the developer first learned about the product at the specialty reseller’s website. If this sounds like sour grapes, well I unfortunately guess it is.  I tried to write this essay so it did’nt sound that way, but I think I failed.  But the rest of this essay should instead give you good food for thought why it makes sense to purchase from a specialty reseller like Xtras.Net.

Often I hear developers believe they will get better support if they buy direct from a vendor. Whenever I mention that to one of my vendors we have a very good laugh (my laugh being the sad one.)  Most vendors couldn’t keep track where someone purchased if they wanted to! Those that can track know it is bad business to be hostile to customers because they purchased from a convenient source.  So please know that buying from a reseller does not harm your prospects for support.  And if you know for a fact that a specific vendor will give you poor support if you buy from a reseller that vendor will certainly be hostile to you in other ways too, so seriously consider buying from a vendor that is not hostile towards segments of its own customers.

To introduce the next topic, I’m sure you realize using a 3rd party component is not something you should do without consideration.  Apps tend to have a long life, and you should consider maintainance 5 and 10 years from now.  Access to source code certainly helps, but knowing a component vendor will continue support is even better.  And what about royalty fees?  When you buy direct from a vendor, they will not go out of their way to show you their warts. But the job of a specialty reseller like Xtras.Net is to provide you with as much information as possible about each and every component so that you can make an informed decision. When you buy direct, you remove the funding specialty resellers need to do the research to help you make your best choice.

Another thing is developers often don’t give any thought to where their products are sourced.  They send a P.O. to purchasing and let purchasing decide.  Of course corporate purchasing usually doesn’t consider specialty resellers unless the developer almost demands they buy there (ironically, the specialty reseller is often the one with the lowest price.) And corporate resellers that purchasing so often uses don’t even know the first thing about .NET components and other programming tools.

So where is all this leading?  To this: I’m asking that next time you decide to purchase a .NET component or other programming tool you consider buying from a specialty reseller like Xtras.Net instead of direct, or that you do what you can to get your purchasing department to consider using the specialty reseller.

What’s in it for you?  Well, it is my goal to build Xtras.Net and related websites out to provide you with a tremendous resource for comparing and contrasting 3rd party .NET components and other tools; well beyond anything that is currently on the Internet in our space.  I also plan initiatives that will lower the average price of .NET components and plan others that will significantly reduce the problems associated with 3rd party components today as well as increase the reliability of using them. 

Every week we meet to plan and every week we have to decide where to put out resources. Since I don’t have venture capital nor do I have public money, I have to operate in a cash flow positive.  If sales are low for the month, we have to take our resources away from building out our infrastructure to provide these benefits of which I mention and put them into getting up sales in the short term.  I can’t tell you how frustrating it is when we realize that we have to stop working on these projects and instead have to put our resources toward yet another promotion.

But I need your help. 

When you are about to buy a 3rd party .NET component or other programming tool, please consider buying from Xtras.Net and/or please ask your purchasing agent to consider buying from Xtras.Net.  If enough of you do over the next year or two, I can promise that you will be very glad you did.

Thanks in advance for your consideration.

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An honest history of Xtras, plus a glimpse of what’s to come

This past March my company Xtras, Inc. had its ten (10) year birthday. We’ve come to a crossroads of sorts and I thought it would be a good time to document those past ten years, and provide a glimpse of our future.  I’ll do my best to describe things as I remember them, but I’ll leave out details that are too complicated or that I’m contractually obligated not to disclose.

I’m a developer, always have been, and always will be. Prior to Xtras for almost ten years I taught developers to program in a tool called Clipper which was a dBase compiler running on DOS. When Clipper training started dying, I became interested in Visual Basic but realized I couldn’t replicate my training business so instead I founded VBxtras which was based on a simple idea: To create a "complete reference guide" catalog of components and tools for Visual Basic developers (I later changed the company name to Xtras.)  As a developer trainer I always liked to provide my students with information about 3rd party tools, so this was a natural segue.

I started VBxtras with no capital besides my AMEX card, and was lucky enough to hire a great team (with the exception of the finance area) and we grew like a weed in the shadow of our public company competitor. We filled the vacuum of demand for VBX and later OCX components for Visual Basic that our competitor ignored, and became the "best friend" for both developers and vendors.  Unfortunately we also took on a lot of debt while we grew.

The dotcom years brought people with more money than sense who funded companies run by those whose main goal was to get rich off an IPO, and during 1999 through 2001 we were treading water as we tried to survive against well-capitalized competitors, both public and private.    Millions of dollars were used to drive a wedge between us and our vendors with whom we once had only great relationships. I’m sure our competitor’s first priority is to make lots of money off developers for their shareholders, not necessarily to improve the lot of the developer. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it is capitalism at its finest, but I believe developers deserve better.

That period of my life was especially excruciating not just because of the financial strain but also because I wasn’t building anything. My goals have always been to build things that can provide benefits for both me and lots of others.  We built the complete reference guide of 3rd party tools for Visual Basic developers (VBxtras) and I know for a fact it helped hundreds of thousands of VB developers find the best tools available. Building things is what makes me happiest.

In 2002 we stumbled across something that actually made us extra profit which allowed us to pay towards our debt. We found Microsoft-centric developers were fascinated by the XBOX, and we could get them to buy a Microsoft MSDN Universal subscription if we bundled. It is difficult for a reseller to make a lot of profit margin when selling Microsoft products but since MSDN Universal costs $2000 or more we found we could make enough to pay for an XBOX plus keep a little for ourselves. 

Also in 2002 we started working on an Xtras.Net printed catalog. However we found the world had changed in eight years. Vendors preferred online advertising to print advertising so most were unwilling to advertise in a printed catalog.  Though we did produce an Xtras.Net issue #1 printed catalog, it was a huge disappointment to me.

For .NET, our Xtras.Net printed catalog was not a "complete reference guide" like the VBxtras catalog had been for VB3 as there were many .NET products not included in our catalog. Also I had questioned my own intuition and I had hired a marketing consultant to design the catalog instead of designing it in house and, quite frankly, many customers told me the Xtras.Net printed catalog didn’t have the soul found in the original VBxtras catalog.  I decided if vendors and developers weren’t passionate about our catalog, I didn’t want to publish it (though we do plan to continue publishing it, albeit in a different form; more on that in future posts.)

So in 2002 and throughout 2003 we focused a lot of our attention on our MSDN+XBOX promotions because they generated the revenue we needed to cover overhead and pay off our painful debt. Sometimes my marketing manager promoted so heavily I cringed at how spammer-like we were becoming. But the MSDN+XBOX promotions allowed us to survive and, allowed us to pay off over half of our old debt. Still I hated that period because we were not on a mission, we were not building anything; we were just moving boxes.

Even though I was unable to pursue "construction" of anything new, different, and valuable for developers during 1999 through 2003, it didn’t keep me from dreaming. I had literally hundreds of ideas, most of them not worth remembering, but a few were really standouts. And a handful, if pursued, would significantly improve the lot of the .NET developer while giving my company a new mission and renewed vigor.  Alas we were unable to pursue any of them during that period for financial reasons.

In late 2003 after getting our financial house in better order it became viable to pursue some of my dormant ideas. As we discussed them internally, they began to gel into a cohesive plan and strategy, and that strategy had a clear mission:

To Empower Serious .NET Developers

While that might sound a bit obtuse right now, you might recognize that phrase as the tagline for our The Xtras.Net Developer Network.

The launch of XDN in January 2004 was the first initiative launched that is part of Xtras’ future strategy. Today XDN is a membership program with two levels: Basic and Professional. XDN Basic membership is free and gives access to download demos from our websites; in the future XDN Basic will give access to a whole lot more. XDN Professional offers members (at least) one free commercial .NET developer component or tool per month, and three of our best sellers at ½ off our normal price. 

In the future we will still operate our existing core business, but our vision extends way beyond what we are doing today. 

So to wrap up the past ten years in a nutshell, we created an icon in the industry but they we went through hell, but came out the other side as survivor.  As for our next ten years and beyond, I can say the following with almost 100% certainty, if you are a .NET developer and we are able to execute our strategy, you will be very glad we did.

FREE XDN Professional for .NET Bloggers, Redux

We’re halfway through the month so its time for me to re-post the offer to get a FREE XDN Professional if you are a .NET Bloggers, in case you missed it the first time. You can click here to learn how to get your FREE XDN Professional membership.

For those who don’t know about XDN it stands for Xtras.Net Developer Network and is a membership program targeting influencial developers who are serious about .NET, and we provide those member special offers each month.  For example, this month in May 2004 XDN Professional members can request these full commercial products for FREE:

Graphics Server .Net
From Graphics Server Technologies
Xtras.Net Regular Price: $824
For XDN Professional Members: FREE 

PDFtoolkit Professional ActiveX/.NET
From Gnostice
Xtras.Net Regular Price: $264
For XDN Professional Members: FREE 

Dynamic AutoComplete Tool
From LaMarvin
Xtras.Net Regular Price: $44
For XDN Professional Members: FREE

XDN Members can also choose to purchase these Best Sellers at 1/2 our normal price during May 2004:

ComponentOne FlexGrid for .Net
From ComponentOne
Xtras.Net Regular Price: $378
For XDN Professional Members: $189 

Xceed Grid For .Net
From Xceed
Xtras.Net Regular Price: $348
For XDN Professional Members: $174

Total .Net Sourcebook
From FMS
Xtras.Net Regular Price: $578
For XDN Professional Members: $289

So if you are a .NET Blogger, be sure to sign up here for your FREE XDN Professional membership before the end of the month. After that, its $99. I’ll finalize by quoting blogger Shannon J Hager’s reply to my comments on his post about this offer. (thanks Shannon for the acknowledgement):

I just want to help make sure people realize that this is a great deal at the normal price. I think a lot of us automatically think "free" means "near worthless" because of the things we’ve seen [so many times] that have reinforced the idea of "you get what you pay for" and when you see something for a lower-than-believable price, it raises suspicions. I had hoped that pointing out the benefits you and the component makers will recieve, as well as the benefits the subscribers recieve, will help things make sense for anyone who has doubts.

What information do you need when you consider purchasing a component?

UPDATE (2006-May-18): I am no longer running Xtras.Net

As many of you know, my company produces a printed catalog called Xtras.Net which we subtitle Your Source for Quality .NET Tools. However, we are revising the design for the next printing, and also adding features to our website to coordinate with some of the changes.

For example, we’d like to include icons for 100% managed code vs.Managed Code calling unmanaged DLLs vs. a wrapped ActiveX.  Another might be to denote if royalties are required.  Yet another would be WinForms vs. WebForms vs. Windows Services vs. IDE add-ins.

For the general case, are those sufficient?  Are there other things you’d like to see when consider a component purchase?


Cool Component: LaMarvin Dynamic AutoComplete Tool

For the month of May I’ve signed up a vendor new to Xtras.Net named LaMarvin, and we are offering their Dynamic AutoComplete Tool for FREE this month to XDN Professional members ($99/year.)  This component adds auto-complete functionality to WinForm Text Boxes and Combo Boxes just like the auto-complete you get in Internet Explorer’s Address (URL) box.

Check out these tutorials:

This is a commercial product we will normally sell for $44, but XDN Professional members get it for free (this month only.)  Also, since I made the offer for any .NET Blogger to get a free XDN Professional membership in May 2004, any .NET blogger can get Dynamic AutoComplete Tool for free too, so be sure to sign up.

However, what I’d really like is to get some real world feedback.  Either download the demo and/or get your free full version as an XDN Professional member, and then post a comment about Dynamic AutoComplete Tool both here and/or on Xtras.Net’s Dynamic AutoComplete Tool page. Let us know, is it any good?  Is it worth $44?  Should it be in everyone’s .NET toolbox?  Or not?  And if not, why not?  If not, can LaMarvin improve it to the point it is worth it?  Inquiring minds….  :)